Updated: Dec 23, 2020
A Positive Mental Health Environment at Home is important because:
Poor mental health is attributed to cause at least 8 millions deaths a year globally, or 14.3% of the world’ population, and increases the mortality rate of these individuals by about 2.2% as compared to a healthy adult
30% of all adults develop some form of mental illness in their lifetime, with 35-50% in high-income and 76-85% in low & medium income countries live with it without receiving any treatments (pg. 198)
Untreated mental health conditions such as depression can lead to suicidal ideation and suicide, which alone claims 800,000 deaths per year globally
(Source: WELL v2, 2018)
Spaces can nourish our mental and emotional health through a comfortable living, working and sleeping environment, while simultaneously mitigating stressors that can cause us short-term and long-term anguish.
Failure for a space to do so can contribute to and exacerbate other well-being issues, either directly or indirectly, such as anxiety, depression, diabetes, asthma, cancer, and cardiovascular disease (WELL v2, 2018, pg. 198).
For those who struggle with substance or alcohol abuse, spatial design can be used to help reshape behavioral patterns into more positive ones.
By making smarter choices for our spaces, quarantining for longer periods of time may become more manageable, enjoyable and perhaps more hopeful, especially over the harsher winter months of a COVID pandemic.
Here are therefore 18 DIY Hacks for a Positive Mental Health Environment at Home (from an individual’s parameter to spatial parameters) within a reasonable price range:
1) Educate yourself on Mental Health
Educating yourself on mental health is important because it prepares you to recognize signs and symptoms ahead of time, within yourself and in others, and to be equipped with knowledge on how to heal from them as well.
There are plenty of resources on the World Wide Web, however if you live in Canada, please refer to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health here.
2) Equip yourself with resources regarding Crisis Hotlines
Suicide claims an average of 4000 Canadian lives each year, according to Statistics Canada.
If you or someone you know is going through a crisis, or is having suicidal thoughts, please have them call Crisis Service Canada at their toll free number at 1-833-456-4566. They are open 24/7, 365 days a year.
3) Get a Mental Health assessment
Cost: $0 (Covered by OHIP, Ontario Health Insurance Plan)
This can be done through an online service, or via an in-person assessment with a Mental Health professional.
The professional will be able to guide their patient on their next steps on a case-by-case assessment basis.
4) Ban the use of Recreational Drugs, Tobacco and Opioids at Home
According to the American Medical Association, substance abuse has statistically been shown to perpetuate mental health issues (29% of all cases) and vice versa (50% of all cases) (HelpGuide, 2020).
To resolve these challenges, an individual should seek professional help, and with their guidance, find ways to help them eliminate drug use from their lifestyle also (i.e. tobacco and opioids also).
5) Be mindful of Alcohol consumption
Both the WHO (World Health Organization) and CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) recommend the following guidelines:
“If you're a man, have no more than 3 standard drinks a day on most days and no more than 15 drinks a week
If you're a woman, have no more than 2 standard drinks a day on most days and no more than 10 drinks a week” (CAMH, 2018)
Also, refrain from drinking entirely if you are pregnant, intend to drive or are to be responsible for others in a vehicle.
Furthermore, if you are taking medication that may interfere with alcohol, if you are mentally or physically ill, or you have an alcohol addiction, consider taking an alternative mode of transportation.
6) Take a 10 to 20 minute Nap early in the afternoon, when needed
Although it is recommended that adults (age 18 and over) should get between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each day (MayoClinic.org, 2019), this can sometimes be insufficient, either because of restlessness or lack of quantity.
Consider taking a 10 to 20 minute early in the afternoon, when needed, to restore your energy and mental focus. Set an alarm so that you do not exceed 30 minutes as it has been shown to disrupt your sleep cycles in the evening.
Also, make sure the napping environment is comfortable, relaxing and promotes restfulness. If your mind is anxious, consider grabbing a notebook and write those things down to clear your mind to make the napping process easier.
7) Spend 30 minutes honing a Hobby each day
Cost: $10 to $100
Being quarantined for long periods of time in the same space with nothing to do can be extremely taxing on anyone’s mental health.
Consider picking up a hobby and developing a skill to pass the time. By allowing yourself to focus onto something productive, it can provide someone with joy and hope when they are struggling with their mental health challenges.
Some hobbies may include:
Music, including singing, playing, songwriting
Reading (i.e. self-help books)
8) Get 30 minutes of moderate Physical Activity a day
Cost: $0 to $50
Getting physical exercise not only benefits our physical health, but our mental health as well.
Physical exercise reduces our symptoms often associated with anxiety, depression or ADHD (HelpGuide, 2020) by releasing chemical hormones in our brain, such as “dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels” (HelpGuide, 2020), which together help improve and stimulate our motivation, concentration and mood.
Furthermore, physical exercise makes us more conscious of our nutritional health and diet, which can ultimately shape how we feel and can change our lifestyle choices as well.
If it helps, consider getting an online Gym Coach; not only will they hold you accountable to your goals, but they can keep you company throughout your new journey also.
For more ideas on how to encourage physical movement at home, please click here.
9) Own a Hypoallergenic Pet
Cost: $50 (fish) to $1500 (dog)
Pets offer us companionship during a time when we could feel overly isolated and alone, especially in COVID quarantines.
According to the Human-Animal Bond Research (HABRI) organization, studies show that “97% of patients showed improved mental health after interacting with animals” (Canada Protection Plan, 2020) by affecting our mood by keeping us company.
10) Hire a Professional and Personal Life Coach (a.k.a. a Life Coach)
Cost: $30 to $100 an hour
A coaching partnership is a co-creation between the client and the coach.
Working together, a Life Coach uses an array of tools, such as questioning and metaphors, to help a client clarify their goals, be accountable for their actions, and to take concrete steps forward in their personal or professional spheres.
Are you looking to develop your professional career after finishing your higher education degree(s)? Are you a new parent looking to return to work? Do you feel you are missing something in life to live it fully? Do you need tips on how to take care of your physical and/or mental well-being? And/or do you need some advice on effective communication, active listening and/or in body language? Contact Life Coach Niem Tu Huynh, today!
11) Ensure a Safe and Secure environment at Home
Cost: $50 to $130
Depending on the neighborhood in which one lives, having a safe and secure environment at home is important because it can reduce the level of anxiety one may have as they spend more time at home.
If safety and security is a concern, consider installing a deadbolt lock for your front door and/or incorporate SMART motion sensor cameras wherever there is an opening or entryway.
12) Ensure a Clean and Organized environment at Home
Cost: $50 to $200
There is a saying that a cluttered space is a cluttered mind.
Purchase non-transparent storage and cabinets so that they allow you to put objects away and out of plain sight. By keeping your spaces looking minimal and organized, it can encourage an individual to concentrate their efforts on more productive matters. It will also make cleaning in the future easier.
13) Purchase Indoor Plants within regularly occupied spaces
Cost: $10 to $150
Bringing natural elements into the indoors has a calming effect on our mental health.
You may purchase as many plants as you want, however a general rule of thumb from a cleaner air quality perspective is to purchase one Indoor Plant for every 100 SF of space.
Seek out plants that “speak” to you when you are plant shopping, but most importantly, have fun with it!
Located in the heart of Toronto, Roehampton Orchids is a tropical nursery that specializes in rare and unique orchid varities from countries around the world. Cultivated by their team in the city, their extensive collection of orchids, such as Goodyera (Jewel Orchids) to various Vandeae including Phalaenopsis, is a result of innovative growing techniques and are grown with the highest degree of attention and care.
14) Make use of Outdoor and Natural spaces
If a stay at home lockdown is not in order, try to maximize your time outdoors by exposing yourself to green spaces, water bodies, and ample amount of sunlight for Vitamin D, which has been shown to regulate and improve our mood.
Furthermore, a change of scenery and routine can be a powerful and effective way to help someone who is struggling with their mental health. By removing oneself from a stagnant and possibly negative situation, an environmental change can sometimes trigger a “mental reset” that can help us see things more clearly in a new perspective than when we are stuck in it.
15) Furnish your space using Natural Materials and Elements
Furnishing your place with elements of wood, brick, terracotta, stone and other natural materials is a great way to incorporate nature into your space.
Plan ahead by making use of photomontages that evoke a certain mood that you wish to emulate, then purchase furniture and accessory items accordingly.
Play with colours, textures, patterns and the other elements and principles of design. Make your space feel comfortable, but most importantly, enjoy the process!
16) Holistically meet all the Functional Elements of a Comfortable space
A comfortable space at home is one that supports and nourishes our mental well-being.
Not only should a space be beautiful, but it must holistically balance the following functional parameters to make the space feel comfortable, such as:
seating & ergonomics
17) Plan your space(s) with a Variety of uses
Consider the principle of variety in spatial planning at home.
Do you have a work space that faces a wall with minimal daylight? Balance that with a laptop station in the living room right against the window with ample daylight.
Do you have an open, outdoor balcony/patio with lush greenery and seating? Balance that with a more intimate living room space that is dimmer and cozier.
The idea here is to encourage a contrast of mental scenery so that a person can always find the best place to be at based on their daily mood and preference. Furthermore, variety also encourages people to move around and to be less sedentary as well.
18) Designate a Quiet Space at Home
If room permits, designate a space at home, preferably 75 SF minimum as per WELL v2's suggestion, for non-work related purposes as a quiet, contemplative or reading space.
It can also be a self-designated “No Social Media Allowed” zone so that a person can decompress from the stresses of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the like. This can sometimes be caused by our potential misuse of it as a way of hiding our problems or from other societal pressure issues, such as the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) effect.